Review: Sparking the Fire

cover-finalSPARKING THE FIRE
BOOK 3
A HOT IN CHICAGO NOVEL
KATE MEADER
Pocket Books
September 27, 2016
($7.99 print, $6.99 ebook)

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Kate Meader’s latest installment of the Hot in Chicago series is just that– hot (and, of course, also in Chicago).  In Sparking the Fire, Wyatt, former-Marine and current Chicago firefighter and Molly, Hollywood movie star, reconnect five years after a sexy anonymous fling.  Now, memories of their six-night stand are rekindled as they work together on Molly’s new movie, a film about about a female firefighter, loosely inspired by Wyatt’s notorious sister Alex.

Molly, reeling from a public divorce and a nude-photo leak, is trying to rebuild her reputation by producing and starring in the movie; Wyatt, recovering from an injury, is assigned to be the fireman consultant on the set.  Although they each have their reasons for wanting to keep things professional, the undeniable attraction that existed five years ago resurfaces and is too powerful to resist!

I liked this book for a number of reasons.  First, Meader’s narrative style is fresh and compelling; since she writes contemporary romances, she’s able to get away with, in particular, short, choppy dialogue that rings true to the ear. Given Wyatt’s taciturn nature, the staccato back-and-forths between Molly and Wyatt feels like real-life conversations.  Meader incorporates a lot of pop culture references and occasional slang to make the dialogue even punchier.

Second, Molly and Wyatt were both well-developed characters with interesting backstories separate from their interactions.  Molly’s career as an actress, as well as the way she handles her divorce and photo leak, are all intriguing facets of her character.  Similarly, Wyatt was raised as part of a larger foster family, the Dempsey’s (whom the entire series is about) and has his own baggage that he’s dealing with as a result of his past.  While the past certainly plays a major role in the development of Molly and Wyatt’s relationship, it’s refreshing to see such deep, well-rounded characters who exist in and of themselves and not merely as part of a couple.

Finally, I liked the family dynamic of the Dempsey clan.  I’m a newcomer to Kate Meader, and this book prompted me to go out and read more of her Hot in Chicago series!  After reading about Wyatt’s sister Alex and her fiance Eli, I was intrigued enough by their story that I bought it a couple days later! The way the family relates to one another, and the shared past of living in foster care, makes for an engaging and entertaining story.

This book gets three flames because the sex is pretty spicy, but it’s not overly-raunchy.  This is definitely a true romance novel and not a romance-erotic novel, so it’s certainly steamy but not as explicit as the latter category tends to be.

I’m giving this book four stars because, as I’ve just said, it has a lot going for it.  The reason it’s not getting five stars is because, while the characters and writing are awesome, the plot dragged at points and didn’t grip me the whole way through. By contrast, when I read Playing With Fire, I couldn’t put it down!  Part of that may have been personal preference– I found powerful and passionate Eli a more compelling hero than stoic Wyatt, so readers who like the “strong and silent” type may connect more with this book.  Overall, though, Meader crafts a fun and feisty story, with dynamic characters that feel like real, genuine people. I highly recommend this book.

katemeaderAbout the Author:

Kate Meader was raised on romance. An Irish girl, she started with Catherine Cookson and Jilly Cooper novels, and spiced it up with some Mills & Boon. Now based in Chicago, she writes romances of her own, where sexy contemporary alpha heroes and strong heroines match each other quip for quip. When not immersed in tales of brooding mill owners, oversexed equestrians, and men who can rock an apron or a fire hose, Kate lives on the web at katemeader.com.

 

Review: The Virgin Intern by Penny Wylder

wylder-internThe Virgin Intern

Peggy Wylder

September 12, 2016

(ebook: 99 cents; free on Kindle Unlimited)

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In The Virgin Intern Peggy Wylder delivers just what one might expect of a book about, well, a virgin intern: an office romance about a young, inexperienced woman and the education she gets from her older, more experienced colleague (who just happens to be ridiculously sexy.

The book opens with a provocative scene in which paralegal Naomi’s altercation with a copy machine leads to her first (very memorable!) interaction with senior partner Andrew.  There’s spilled ink and borrowed handkerchiefs and all kinds of sexually suggestive conversation.  Andrew instantly becomes the lead star of Naomi’s fantasies, but as a brand new (and seriously cash trapped) employee in her uncle’s law firm, Naomi can’t afford to make any mistakes.  As her uncle’s most hated employee, Andrew is definitely off limits.

But, as luck (and very convenient plot structure) would have it, Naomi and Andrew are thrown together on a major case, and their working relationship becomes something altogether more in about three pages.  Their “research” takes them from the bedroom to the pool to Andrew’s swanky office.  By the end of the book, Naomi’s virginity is a thing of the past and her love for Andrew (and his for her) is the basis for an exciting future.

This novella hits many of the right spots for lovers of erotic contemporaries–the sex is hot, hot, hot and a little (or a lot!) on the dirty side.  That said, I wouldn’t recommend it to those who read primarily for plot or character development.  This one is a quick read with good prose that satisfies certain needs, but it isn’t meant for much beyond that.

Mini-Review: King of Wall Street

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Louise Bay
King of Wall Street
Released August 24, 2016
(ebook: $3.99; Free on Kindle Unlimited!)

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Hello lovely romance readers!  I’m starting a new feature this week: mini-reviews!  I wasn’t necessarily planning to review King of Wall Street, but I was so impressed with it, I can’t resist.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed a huge trend in contemporary romance: a$$hole billionaire dude seduces and eventually shows his softer side to wishy-washy ingenue (thanks, Fifty Shades).  To be clear, I’m definitely not hating on those billionaire alphas– they’re sure fun to read about and the stories are always steamy– but I am a little tired of reading about men who are not terribly likable and women who are…overly-compliant (Granted, I understand that a lot of books in this theme fall under a BDSM umbrella, but I’ve also noticed even when the couples aren’t specifically in some sort of D/S relationship, the alpha-men are ultra bossy and the women are not always the strongest).  A couple weeks ago, I saw promos for King of Wall Street and, despite its pretty unique cover art, figured it would be like the dime-a-dozen business butthead books that are so popular.

Thus, what a refreshing surprise King of Wall Street was!  Louise Bay has taken a common trope and turned it into a compelling, emotional story filled with the best (i.e. sexy) parts of the Fifty Shades and Crossfire series, but upending some of the frustrating cliches of that sub-genre.  Max King, the illustrious hero, is at first blush your typical Wall Street power mogul: he’s arrogant, he’s rude, and he takes no prisoners.  But, throughout the story, Max’s softer side comes out.  He’s dealing with single-fatherhood of a delightful 14 year-old daughter; he has two annoying sisters always meddling in his life; he’s been patronizing the same New York deli for ten years.  There are so many signs of life here!

Even better, Harper Jayne is a heroine I can get behind.  She’s smart, she’s successful, she’s sassy, and she stands up for herself!  How awesome it is to read about a heroine in one of these billionaire books who isn’t a wet blanket!  She totally fits the model for our favorite types of heroines.

King of Wall Street is a lot of fun.  The characters are engaging, the story is light-hearted, with just enough obstacle to make the romance interesting.  I’d recommend this book to fans of Fifty Shades, the Crossfire series, or some of Maya Banks’ series, especially if you like reading about office romances and alpha-men, but aren’t necessarily looking for the heavy emotional baggage a lot of the characters in those books tend to carry.  Also, this book is FREE on Kindle Unlimited and it’s definitely worth a read if you’re a subscriber!

Review: With Every Breath by Maya Banks

w-every-breathMaya Banks
With Every Breath
Published August 23, 2016
($24.99 hardback, $7.99 ebook)
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What do you get when two heavily armed and super sexy security professionals team up to take down a very bad bad guy?

Explosive chemistry!

Get it?! Explosive?!  (I know, so bad! I’m sorry.)

Terrible jokes aside, the chemistry is indeed explosive in Maya Banks’ With Every Breath, the fourth book in her Slow Burn series. The story begins with a terrible phone call: the man who nearly ruined Eliza Cummings’ life—and her sanity—is being released from prison on a technicality. As a teenager Eliza was tricked into falling in love with Thomas, a rich, handsome man who also happened to be a mind-reading, will-bending psychopath. Unbeknownst to Eliza, Thomas had spent years kidnapping women, torturing them in the basement of the house she hoped to someday call home. When Eliza discovered the truth, she turned Thomas over to the police and later played a central role in the trial that put him in prison for life. Until, that is, Thomas bribes and intimidates his way back onto the streets.

Eliza knows that with Thomas out of prison, there’s no way that she can protect the people she loves—her co-workers and friends at the Devereux Security Agency—unless she destroys Thomas … and herself in the process. She leaves a note for her beloved colleagues and prepares to leave town. Continue reading